I Wish This Was

New Orleans, Louisiana and worldwide
2010 – Present

“The first time I saw speculative futures used to shape cities, I was standing on the work… Candy Chang’s stickers were a question and statement both, transforming boarded-up windows and weathered siding into spaces where people shared their dreams about what could be. It was a simple kind of speculative futures approach, an invitation to ask, ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?'” —Speculative Futures by Johanna Hoffman

Fusing street art and urban planning, I Wish This Was is a participatory public installation that reveals people’s dreams for their own communities. Chang posted thousands of “I wish this was ___” stickers on vacant buildings across New Orleans to invite neighbors and residents to easily share their hopes for these spaces. After attending many community meetings where the “voice” of the community amounted to a handful of people or the loudest ones in the room, Chang experimented with more inclusive and embedded forms of civic engagement. Mimicking the common design of name tags, the stickers reframe empty buildings in terms of their potential identities.

Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a place to sit and talk, an affordable farmers’ market, not lowering my property value, full of nymphomaniacs with PhDs, what you need, your dream. Featured in the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, I Wish This Was continues on through the passionate work of communities around the world and provokes insights on how a shared space can evolve.

Anyone interested in using the stickers are welcome to print their own by downloading these files. Stickers should be made of vinyl, not paper, so they can easily be removed without damaging property. To those concerned about the subjunctive mood (“I wish this was” vs. “I wish this were”): Long discussions on the topic suggest that both usages are acceptable. This project is about striking up a casual conversation in the city.

2010, New Orleans, Louisiana and worldwide. Vinyl stickers, permanent markers, vacant buildings. 4.5″ x 3″ each. Initially created with support by the Ethnographic Terminalia exhibition. Subsequent installations include: City of Salisbury, Salisbury, South Australia, 2013; Museum of Design Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia, 2014; Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, California, 2015; Sarah Stein and Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, Arkansas, 2016; Other Fest 2017, Perak, Malaysia; Sarah Bregant and Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2018; Beta – Timișoara Architecture Biennial 2022, Timișoara, Romania, 2022.

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